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The International Writers Magazine: A Writer's Life

A Year in the Life of a new Author
• Sam Hawksmoor
IN 2012 I was lucky enough to have two novels published with Hodder Childrens Books in the UK.  Sadly the year ends with my editor Beverley Birch retiring. Knowing how supportive she has been of my writing these past few years it makes a writer nervous.  With luck I’ll be looked after by Naomi now, but we shall see.  It is a very uncertain world in publishing now.  Each new book on its own merits set against a climate of fear.


I’ll say this – it is very hard to make an impact in publishing.  Some authors tweet and facebook themselves to death to raise the stakes and I’m sure it works, but I’m reluctant and to be honest I am not sure kids care.  The life of this writer frankly isn’t exactly exciting.  You get up, you write.  The excitement is what your characters get up to and I’m not about to tweet that; might as well tweet the whole novel.  (No doubt someone already does).

I was fortunate to have an excellent book cover designer in Michelle Brakenborough who came on board at the editing stage and listened to suggestions and interpreted them brilliantly.  Covers really matter and I had two great ones thanks to her.  Beverley and Naomi worked on the manuscript suggesting changes – sometimes great, sometimes very small, but they made a big difference.  They know exactly who the book is aimed at and every writer should probably listen carefully to what their editor is suggesting.

The Repossession was launched in March and again there was a good response from the bloggers for the book and that certainly helped.  But like many other authors, it is a battle to get into bookshops whatever your book looks like and popping into independent bookshops is not recommended for a new author because you almost can be guaranteed disappointment.  Worse, a bookshop manager in Lincoln told me ‘If only you were Alan Tichmarsh – now there’s someone who can write.’  Sigh.

Talking to kids in schools helped.  You could see they loved the book and I only wish I could get to more schools, or at least persuade more schools it is worth having an author in to talk about books they like and how to create a story.  (Looking forward to going back to Jesus and Mary Language College on World Book Day 2013).

The Winchester Writers Conference came around in June and it was good to see fellow writers again and of course all those who strive to get into print.  Sometimes I worry that so many want this but can’t see how much and how fast the publishing world is changing.  A question I always ask would be writers is ‘When did you last buy a book by a first time writer?’  I am often surprised when the answer is negative.  We writers need to support new writers too, or else there won’t be any. 

I also attended the Society of Authors conference in the summer and although there were some pretty bleak outlooks on the future of publishing it was fun to be there. To be honest I am not a regular conference goer. I am never quite sure what they are for. I guess I am a very bad networker. I probably should sign up for some anti-social media.

The Hunting, the sequel, came out in August and to be honest what with the Olympics on and it being summer  - getting anyone to notice was tough.  Getting it into bookshops was even harder.  Waterstones in Chichester and Woking were very helpful, but it was a challenge. How do you get all the other stores to take it too?  One Tree Books in Petersfield were great and I got to go to school and talk to the kids in Steep, which was cool.

Luckily the book is gaining ground in other territories, thanks to the hard work of the fabulous international marketing team at Hodder.  Australia took to it and now France, Brazil and Turkey will all have new local editions in 2013.  I wonder what it will be called in each.  I have memories of a friend’s novel that sold to Denmark and her being surprised by the title.  There was also a faint suspicion that it was only slightly based on her book…  Happily it bought us two glorious weeks in Corfu.

The year ended on an up note with The Repossession being shortlisted for the Leeds Book Awards (along with a fellow SCWBI member).  It’s being judged by the kids themselves and they are a tough crowd to please.

I’ve been working on a new title (actually two) and one has just been submitted by my agent, Ben Illis.  Again, getting an agent’s notes is essential.  It’s often hard to step back and see the cracks in the pavement and their job is to show you a possible other way to deal with ‘issues’.  Of course changes often make your book longer but that’s a different battle altogether.  Taken me a long time to find an agent who can be incisive and very deft in his often sensible suggestions.

For many writers the ambition is to get published and all energy is focused on that.  The harder part one discovers is being published, staying positive and coming up with something the publishers will want next.  Finding a publisher who will nurture you and stick with you in a climate where bookshops are teetering on extinction is the challenge.  The good news is that each year there are more and more kids out there.  Our job is to make sure they actually read books – no matter if they be print or electronic. 

© Sam Hawksmoor December 2012
Author of The Repossession
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books March 1st 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0340997086
The Hunting
Publisher Hodder Children’s Books August 2nd 2012
ISBN - 13: 9780340 997093

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